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Old habits die hard — but they do

How I happened to overcome certain dietary rigidities, once and for all

Habits are zilch, but practices we adopt; paradoxically, likes and dislikes are nothing but a concept in the mind. Old habits, well-practised performance, beat into submission our conscious desire to change. Some of the challenges that arise as we grow old come about as old habits die hard. In fact, the audacity resists ‘change’ — trying out anything new is to step outside the comfort zone. Consistency is indeed the key. Perhaps we fear the change and we are scared of alternatives to speculate, so long as we get what we savour and delight in.

Although I don’t want to imply that life should be focussed entirely around food, it’s especially important when you reach this stage of your life not to let things go while considering what you eat. There are people who yearn to eat bitter gourd (karela), and there are some who don’t like its bitter taste. Likewise, everybody has his own likes and dislikes, and obviously I’m no exception.

Generally, my mornings start with a long walk, and after a shower I hanker for a good breakfast. And that will usually be hot rotis or chapatis with a vegetable side dish: this is what I normally expect every day. This routine had become a habit, and any change to the set practice invoked displeasure. My wife was well aware of this weakness, and in order to escape any wrath she took care seldom to change the routine fare with anything else — unless there was simply no alternative.

The alternatives essentially sneaked when my daughter or son came home. They invariably come with a list of dishes they want their mother to prepare, which they will be longing for. And the list ranges across cuisine types. All the dishes they prefer would be hot, spicy and rich. It’s not that I don’t like all this; I do, but once in a way, preferably for lunch and not for breakfast or dinner since I find it difficult to assimilate it.

No doubt my wife is acknowledged to be a good cook; she can work her magical hands verily on any Indian, continental or intercontinental dish with perfection. The demands of my children are justifiably their prerogative to expect from their mother. All the more, my wife attends to their requirements whole-heartedly, forgetting all her aches and ailments, with immense pleasure. Besides, she also met my stipulations unless I myself volunteered to have something else. I was getting on well like a hog under the tree eating acorns, but never looking up to see where they came from.

The ordeal set in when my wife heard about my daughter’s second pregnancy, a difficult one. Since the first one was a Caesarean section, everyone was concerned about the second one. As a mother my wife was naturally a little more worried than others. In fact, she remained torn between me and my daughter. Here my loneliness and there my daughter’s longing to have her mother by her side. Much to her reluctance, she was determined to go to Toronto to attend to our daughter’s needs, all the more as she was all alone there.

There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves it. Before she set out, my wife prepared a variety of dishes to the best of her ability, packed them in plastic containers and kept them in the freezer. These were meant for me to use for some days. The preparations did help me to a great extent. Subsequent to that I resorted to hotels, the generosity of kinfolk, and ultimately I took to self-cooking. Self-cooking: just imagine the predicament of a person who had until then never even applied butter on bread and considered it to be cooking, trying his hands at all permutations and combinations in making a broth.

The quandary continued for a week or two and things went on with on-off adventures. By the grace of God my daughter was delivered of a girl child and it was a normal procedure. It was a big sigh of relief to everyone; and it was double in my case since it was followed by the news of my wife’s return. She was coming back much before her scheduled return date since everything had gone well and my daughter was confident enough to carry on alone without much of a hassle.

In brief, my wife was back with a bang and resumed her normal life and routine. The first breakfast she prepared after coming back was khara bath, which I had never relished. Since it was her first day after coming back, I did not demur. I pulled the plate towards me half-heartedly and took a spoon from it. To my surprise it melted its way down easily before I could relish and enjoy the retention in the mouth. The reflexes automatically prompted for the next serving. The taste was delicious enough to cool my temperament, which had actually been ignited on seeing it.

I had never thought this particular dish to be so very tasty. The richness was so distinct and palpable to the nervous papillae of the tongue; they induced a sense of divine bliss and it was intense, the kind I had hardly come across. The taste buds blossomed like spring flowers. I felt as though I was craving for this kind of food for a long time. I regretfully realised what I was missing all these days.

Perhaps, if we had no winter, spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste the abysmal, splendid would not be so welcome.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 3:32:07 AM |

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